The Senate Education and Health Committee richly deserves its "Committee of Death" moniker — it has been the graveyard for pro-life legislation for most of the decade. No pro-life bill has survived this committee regardless of its simplicity or common sense. As usual, a valuable bill that would have improved the safety regulations of the Commonwealth’s abortion centers was defeated there yesterday on a vote of 11-4 — a party line vote, with the exception of Senator Fred Quayle (R-13, Suffolk), who voted against the bill as he did last year. Patroned by Delegate Matt Lohr (R-26, Harrisonburg), HB 393 would require that these unregulated surgical facilities that perform abortions to be inspected, have emergency life-saving equipment, and be overseen by a state regulatory agency just as any other outpatient surgical center. This legislation has long been a pro-life priority. Delegate Lohr eloquently pointed out to the committee the disparity between how these unregulated surgical abortion centers are treated compared to other medical facilities. As inexplicable as it is, 11 members of the committee believe that incredibly less invasive procedures such as lasik surgery, blood donation, face lifts, colonoscopies and oral surgery should be held to higher standards than abortion procedures.

Perhaps most alarming was Dr. Wendy Klein, from the VCU School of Medicine, who claimed, "Abortion is the safest medical procedure you can have!" The opposition to HB 393 cited the National Abortion Federation, an association that oversees seven abortion centers in Virginia, as a reliable self-regulatory organization. However, as I clarified in my testimony, this is far from reassuring. For example, NAF requires only a midlevel clinician (not necessarily a physician) to perform an abortion procedure. Fortunately, Virginia Code protects against this, but clearly NAF guidelines, as exemplified in this one standard, cannot be assumed sufficient!

Countering these arguments, in addition to Delegate Lohr and The Family Foundation, were a number of organizations that clearly outnumbered the pro-abortion forces, including representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, Virginia Society For Human Life and the Virginia Catholic Conference.

Dr. Klein was at it again on HB 334, patroned by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas). This bill, also defeated yesterday on the exact same 11-4 vote, would bolster Virginia's informed consent law by making available to women seeking abortions statistics that show the difficulties of future pregnancies and births to women who previously had abortions (as much as eight times higher). She said that bill presumes women can't figure out things for themselves. So, she admits there are risks!

Even more shocking was Senator Dick Saslaw's (D-35, Springfield) response to the citation of the House of Delegates vote on this bill (95-2). He said a member told him it got that many votes because many who voted for it knew "we'd kill it over here." Aside from the crass cynicism and joy he seemed to take in those seemingly vindictive words, if Senator Saslaw is correct, it shows that an overwhelmingly large amount of Virginians favor this type of legislation and that their representatives are afraid to vote against their constituents' interests. The pro-abortion crowd can't have it both ways.

While it is difficult to stand before this committee year in and year out with such reasonable legislation only to see it killed, we appreciate the legislators who are willing to continue to force lawmakers to go on record opposing this legislation. The Family Foundation remains committed to fighting for pro-life and pro-family issues.